Judo is a Worldwide Community

Kodokan, Tokyo

Kata and Technical Clinic, Summer session, Kodokan, Tokyo, Japan
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By Mark V. Lonsdale, Judo Training Development

In past articles we have discussed the importance of age appropriateness in training, and in understanding the expectations of your students. Just as training children differs from training teens or young adults, each age group or individual also has different expectations from judo training. In this article we will look at the character traits of one particular age group – six-year olds.

One of the great joys of teaching judo is seeing young children learn, develop, and gain confidence through judo. While this can be a frustrating process at times, often compared to “herding cats,” it can also be extremely rewarding, especially when they begin developing levels of agility, balance, and coordination (ABC) not seen previously. Kids that came to the dojo unable to do a simple forward roll or somersault suddenly have the confidence to do dive rolls into the crash pads, cartwheels across the mat, and forward rolling breakfalls.    

But more important than the physical development, it is immensely satisfying to see them develop character traits such as confidence, tenacity, and fighting spirit. However, by understanding the development of children at various ages, it is possible to better structure the training sessions and to anticipate behavioral issues. As experienced judo sensei, many of you will recognize and appreciate the following points, but for others it will be like the proverbial light coming on. Suddenly, by appreciating the uniqueness of your youngest students, you will be able to optimize their experiences with judo.

While some clubs take students as young as three or four years old, these programs are generally centered round FUNdamentals (fun and games), designed for exercise and socialization, as opposed to structured judo training. But by six years these students begin to grasp concepts, can follow instruction, and are able to execute judo techniques, provided the training is fun, challenging, inclusive, and dynamic. 

Most of the following notes and observations are mainstream thinking in child development with some drawn from earlier pedagogical papers distributed by the French Judo Federation.    

As most parents will know, a six-year old can often go to extremes with little to no moderation in play. They will throw caution to the wind if they feel they are in a safe environment. This can be seen when they begin climbing and find themselves in precarious and sometimes dangerous situations.  In judo the danger is that they can be too rough with smaller or weaker students without even realizing they are doing it. This is neither intentional nor bullying. The advantage we have as judo instructors is that we can pair the more aggressive students with other students who are slightly bigger or stronger. We can also pair a student who lacks confidence with a slightly weaker student so that both benefit from the experience.  

Six-year olds like to be first and are not above cheating to be the first. They also revel in attention so will try harder or show-off to win the approval of others. Children are also affected by the pressure put on them by their parents to win. This periodically drives them to be overly aggressive in games. The problem is not the child but the parents’ misunderstanding of the principles of judo. The parents see throwing and randori as a “win or lose” contest, while, in reality, judo is about cooperating with a partner and trying hard. We value effort, persistence and tenacity over winning, so should constantly stress this in the dojo. Do not allow the parents to cheer on their kids during randori sessions. In fact, don’t allow the parents to interact with the children at all —   unless there is a serious injury.   

Six-year olds are high energy, very animated, and often talk constantly. Rather than disciplining the child or punishing this behavior, the judo instructor should channel these character traits. A judo training session for children should be almost non-stop games, exercises, and judo drills with a minimum of rest periods. The use of judo games is a good way to trim some of the energy off the class at the beginning of a session. I routinely open the mat a half-hour before class for the kids to practice their breakfalls into the big crash pads or play judo related games. This makes them quieter and more attentive at the formal bow-in. If you have a young student who is constantly talking, invite them out in front of the class to explain the last technique they learned, or repeat back what you just said. That will often cure the talking within a few weeks.

On the subject of undesirable behavior, six-year olds respond better to isolation than punishment. While using exercises such as push-ups has a beneficial side affect, in that they get stronger, being sent to sit quietly at the other end of the mat is more effective. Children fear being separated from the group, but when I use this I give the student an out. I tell them that they can come to me and ask to rejoin the group when they feel they have learned their lesson. This usually takes no more than a minute or two.

Oddly enough, kids appreciate social habits and like rituals and conventions. This is one reason children respond well to judo and other well structured martial arts. From the first day on the mat they see the other children conforming to the traditions and rituals of the dojo and want to be a part of that. Something as simple as tying the belt correctly becomes an important part of the process.

This learning of rituals is not unlike the small child being permitted to serve the guests at a family gathering or learning the rules of a board game. They feel grown up when they learn these social conventions and take pride in doing them well. With martial arts, the Japanese traditions and conventions also conjure up images of Power Rangers, samurai, and ninja warriors – all useful in maintaining the child’s interest and imagination.    

Small children are amazed by magic so to be an effective instructor it helps if you can amaze and entertain the younger students from time to time. Something as simple as a well executed foot sweep (ashi-waza) or a big Ippon into the crash pads are seen as “cool tricks” that will amaze the little ones.  Six-year olds are also enthusiastic about learning new things, but easily bored if they do not achieve quick success. This is why it is necessary to teach and practice in small increments with readily attainable goals.   

As with most young cubs in the animal kingdom, kids love to wrestle and roll around. In child development this is known as “rough & tumble play” and is a sub-set of Socialization in Play found in the related sciences. One problem with this, as stated earlier, is that the six-year old may not know when to stop. While some will be careful not to hurt the other person, others will be swept up in the moment and inadvertently apply full force. They may also not see the difference between wrestling on the mats and the dangers of wrestling on concrete. It is therefore incumbent on the instructor or responsible adult to moderate the play. While in judo we praise effort and fighting spirit, we must also ensure the welfare and safety of both partners.

One tool that the judo instructor can use is introducing young students to randori through newaza. By spending a few weeks on ground fighting and newaza randori, the instructor is able to introduce the students to low intensity judo without the risk of big throws and hard landings. The instructor can also take this a step further by starting the newaza randori sessions with the bigger and stronger students being held by the weaker students.   

On the subject of randori, do not expect an excited six-year old to hear your first command. At this age children need three or four chances to comply with a command, so right from day one the students must be conditioned to respond to Matte! and Stop! immediately. These commands are critical safety mechanisms built into judo training, especially when the mats run up to the walls in the dojo.

When it comes to motivating six-year olds, it is well known that young children do not like criticism but they enjoy praise. This goes back to the age-old principle of coaching which encourages stating two positive things before offering criticism. For example, “Your balance breaking was excellent and your commitment to the attack was much better, but your feet are in the wrong position. Let’s try it again with both feet together and in front of Uke’s feet. Remember the pyramid we showed you?”  Or, “You are attacking much more in randori and I liked that throw, but then you left Uke lying on the mat and did not follow into newaza. What hold would have worked well as a transition from that throw?”   

Finally, and more important than all the notes above, the judo instructor or coach must take the time to get to know the strengths, weaknesses, and personalities of all his or her students. Each child is different so learns in different ways. Some are thinkers while others are doers. The thinkers must be given time and encouragement to think a problem through, while the doers must be encouraged to keep doing an exercise until they get it right. Similarly, the less confident students will need to be encouraged while the overly confident students may need to learn elements of humility. But through all this, keep it fun, interesting, inclusive, and dynamic, and let your students know that you are there for them. 


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By Mark V. Lonsdale

Training for Competition and Beyond

The first question – what is Good Judo?

Good Judo is Ippon Judo where throws are big, clean, and nicely executed. To be scored an Ippon in randori or shiai, a throw must have four components: control, force, speed, and the opponent lands largely on the back. If any one of these is missing it may be scored a Wazari.  

Good Judo in competition is when the player is constantly attacking and going for the big terminal Ippon. When the player is successful, Uke soars through the air, crashes to the tatami, and the referee shoots his or her hand up to signal the Ippon. Good Ippons are easy to score and everyone remembers them.

Therefore, Bad or Negative Judo is when a player is bent over, stiff armed, non-combative or continually playing for the smallest of points. Or, as we often see, attempts to make his or her opponent shido, and spends too much time fighting over grips. A negative Judo player will make a minor attack every 25-30 seconds to avoid being awarded a shido, and will drop to all-fours (flop and drop) after an attack to avoid being countered. This is also known as making “low risk attacks,” but it is ugly Judo and not at all interesting to watch. In a constant effort to make Judo more visually interesting for spectators and television, referees are instructed to penalize players for negative Judo.

So the problem for young competitors and their coaches is that if they focus only on competition tactics, and adopt a low risk style of fighting, they will never grow as Judoka. Now don’t get me wrong, I love competition Judo as much as anyone. In fact I devoted a good part of my life to being an international competitor and continue as a Veteran, but I appreciate Good Judo even more and I am not alone in this.

From an article in a 2005 California Judo Magazine, I read how former All Japan Champion, Yasuhiro Yamashita, valued good Judo and admitted to practicing kata on a regular basis. He felt that when he was having problems with technical aspects of his competition performance, that kata helped improve his techniques and made his throws more precise.   

This is a radical concept for a competition fighter – voluntarily practicing kata, and not just for grading or promotion points. Here is a World Champion who regularly returns to good Judo, in the form of kata, to hone his techniques for competition.

My story is one of being selected by Isao Inokuma, the Japanese National Coach at the time, to train with Nobuyuki Sato at the French National Sports Institute. For those of you not old enough to remember Sato, he too was one of Japan’s great champions, so I knew I was in for a pounding. But Inokuma Sensei assured me that, “Sato would only use one technique, tai-otoshi.”

This did not alleviate my concerns as tai-otoshi is a very fast, powerful body-drop, and I had seen how fast and how hard Sato had thrown other members of the French training squad. But since he was restricted to one technique, I felt confident I could come up with a suitable block, if not a counter. How wrong I was!!

Even though Sato used only one technique, he was able to enter this throw from several different directions and with an equal number of feints. The result was that in a five minute randori, I was picking myself up off the mat for four of those minutes. But with pain comes gain so I learned an important lesson that day.

A good Judoka can select a favorite technique (tokui-waza) and then build a family of entries and combinations around that technique. Sato would use tai-otoshi in combination with deashi-barai, sasae-tsurikomi-ashi, ouchi-gari, and even uchi-mata. Each of these was just a set-up to off-balance his opponent so that he could finish them with the body-drop – every throw a bone-jarring Ippon.     

So for the club level Judoka who is aspiring to be a Judo champion, it is important not to neglect practicing Good Judo. My personal training program called for doing good Judo with lots of big attacks in club randori three nights a week. Then at national squad training, three days a week, I would work on competition tactics and grip fighting. I also taught juniors three evenings a week, which greatly helped in polishing my techniques, since each demonstration for the class had to be technically perfect. In addition, doing light randori with the juniors allowed me to work on my techniques, timing, and footwork, while using absolutely no strength.  

So, for the young Judoka (and some not so young) who are reading this, don’t be afraid to try for those big Ippons in club randori, even if you get countered. It is more important to develop the  technique, timing and confidence to attack than to worry about winning or losing in randori. In time, that focus on doing Good Judo will emerge in competition with beautiful and memorable wins by IPPON.


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Weight Loss for Veterans

6 Surprising Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight

What’s interfering with your diet — from medications to muscle mass — and how to unstick the scale

by Ginny Graves, AARP, December 18, 2020

You’ve been cutting calories, eating smaller portions and walking almost every day — a seemingly successful dieting strategy by all measures except one: the scale. It doesn’t seem to budge. What gives? Why can’t you lose weight even when you’re dieting?

If you’re over 50, experts say that your metabolism — as it relates to changes in your physiology, medications you take and muscle loss — may be to blame. But, of course, lifestyle (sitting much, anyone?) factors in, too. Here are the six solvable problems likely standing between you and your slimmer self, according to experts.

1. Your medications are an issue.

Roughly 75 percent of people over 50 take prescription drugs regularly, and the percentage (and number of meds people take) rises steadily with age. While those medications may be necessary, they can mess with your weight. Research shows that 10 to 15 percent of the obesity epidemic is related to drug-induced weight gain. Further, “it’s likely that drugs make it harder to lose weight,” says Louis Aronne, M.D., director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at Weill Cornell Medicine. Weight-gain-promoting drugs run the gamut, from over-the-counter antihistamines that contain diphenhydramine, which increases appetite, to beta blockers, which can slow muscle contractions and thereby slow metabolism, to most selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors prescribed for depression and anxiety. “They initially cause weight loss, but over time they cause weight gain, although we don’t have a clue as to why,” Aronne says. If you think your medication may be interfering with your weight-loss effort, don’t go off the drug; instead, talk with your doctor. “In most cases there are alternatives that don’t have an effect on weight,” he says.

2. You’re losing muscle.

“If you don’t make an effort to preserve muscle mass, you lose 3 to 8 percent per decade after age 30,” says Kristen Beavers, associate professor in the department of health and exercise science at Wake Forest University. And because muscle burns more calories than fat, your metabolic rate slows and you torch fewer calories, she adds. Age-related hormone loss, in both women and men, accelerates the decline. Complicating matters further, you lose muscle when you shed weight. In some people, as much as 40 percent of their weight loss is from muscle, according to Beavers.

You can slow both age-related and weight-loss-related muscle attrition with a strength-training program. Swedish researchers reported in 2019 that 70-year-olds who did regular resistance training for 10 weeks not only increased lean muscle tissue but also lost body fat. What’s more, in a study of 249 overweight people in their 60s and 70s, Beavers and her colleagues found that those who did resistance training along with a weight-loss program lost significantly less muscle than those who paired weight loss with aerobic exercise.

Aim for three days a week of strength training, Beavers suggests. Start with light handheld weights or resistance bands, or a few push-ups and crunches, and gradually add more weight or resistance (or reps) as your strength increases. Bonus: Building healthy muscle tissue creates more mitochondria — the energy-generating structures in your muscle cells — so you may notice you have more energy, and that, in turn, can help you stay active and burn more calories throughout the day, she adds.

3. You’re skimping on protein.

As people age they often have more trouble digesting protein, so they eat less of it, and those who are dieting tend to cut back on protein — which is exactly the wrong thing to do, Beavers says. For one thing, protein is a vital building block of healthy muscle tissue. When Beavers and her colleagues studied 96 people in their 60s and 70s who lost weight, they found that eating one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight daily helped participants preserve healthy muscle mass. Plus, the exercise itself was (at least temporarily) satiating, she says.

4. You’re eating the wrong foods.

Paleo, keto, low-fat — regardless of the diet plan, it won’t be effective if you’re not eating nutritious food. If you’re on a low-fat regimen that includes low-fat fare like diet soda and white bread, you’re going to struggle to lose weight. The same goes for low-carb if you’re eating bacon every day, says Christopher Gardner, a nutrition scientist at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. In a yearlong study of low-fat and low-carb diets, Gardner and his colleagues taught all 609 overweight participants, regardless of the plan they were following, how to cut back on added sugar, refined grains and highly processed foods, as well as how to load up on vegetables and nutrient-dense whole foods and to stop eating when they were full. People on both plans lost, on average, about 12 pounds (though some lost as much as 66) and reduced their body fat and waist circumference. “We thought we were going to find ideas for how to personalize diet programs. Instead, we discovered something more basic that works for everyone: Eat high-quality, nutritious foods, and stop eating when you’re full.”

5. You’re not pushing your pace.

Going for a daily walk is great, but if you’re moving at a speed that’s comfortable (about 3 miles an hour), you’re not going to see much benefit in terms of weight loss, which requires a calorie burn rate of 4 miles per hour or faster.

To achieve that, walking coaches suggest varying your pace to include short stretches at a faster stride. “One of the best ways to turn walking into a weight-loss workout is to add speed intervals,” says Michele Stanten, a walking coach and author of Walk Off Weight. To do that, just push yourself at the fastest pace you can for 30- or 60- or 120-second intervals, followed by double the time at a normal pace. Continue alternating between fast and slow for 15 to 20 minutes. Easier yet, you can walk briskly for one block and go at your usual pace for two blocks, or walk quickly for one song and slower for two. Brazilian researchers reported in 2019 that interval-training workouts result in shedding more fat and weight than exercising at a steady pace and that these workouts may cause your body to burn more fat after you’re done, as well.

6. You’re eating too much at night.

Research shows that people who eat after dinner consume an average of 208 more calories than those who don’t. “A lot of people are able to control what they eat during the day, but by nighttime they’re tired and feel like they deserve a treat,” says Kelly Allison, director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “When we shut down at night, there’s cognitive fatigue, so we don’t have as much resolve to say no to ourselves.”

If you stop eating earlier in your day, however, you may experience biological weight-loss benefits, too. Allison and her colleagues recently completed a small, preliminary study in which they compared people who stopped eating at 7 p.m. with those who quit at 11 p.m. Those who stopped eating earlier burned more fat and had lower cholesterol and blood sugar — all of which can be good for weight loss — possibly because our bodies are programmed to process food more effectively during the day, Allison says. Those are good incentives to tell yourself the kitchen is closed after 7. And when you find yourself craving a nighttime snack, take a walk or call a friend.

You’ve Lost Weight, but How Do You Keep It Off?

Thanks to a huge trove of data on people who have maintained weight loss for at least a year (and often far longer), researchers have identified the factors that help prevent scale creep. “There are specific habits that set successful weight maintainers apart,” says Danielle Ostendorf, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, who has studied them. Here’s what we can all learn from those who have kept the pounds off.

  • Get on the scale. If weighing yourself every day drives you nuts, do it once every week or two. “If you know where you are weightwise, you’re less likely to let stealthy weight gain get out of control,” Ostendorf observes.

  • Think habit, not diet. “Behaviors that are automatic take way less effort,” she says. By eating meals and exercising and going to bed at the same time every day, those healthy, weight-stabilizing habits become second nature.

  • Move more. “People who maintain their weight get about 300 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous exercise — twice what the guidelines for minimum exercise say,” Ostendorf says. They also engage in more routine light activity than most of us. “On average, they replace one hour of sitting with one hour of movement.” And when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, every minute of movement matters.
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Practice versus Training in Judo

By Mark V. Lonsdale, Judo Training Development

For most Judoka, their journey in Judo begins by attending regularly scheduled practice at a local Judo club. They are not going into Judo to train for the Olympics or even the Nationals, but simply for recreation, fitness, and possibly self defense. After the initial learning and technical phases, the Judoka continues to attend practice to improve. This practice involves repeating a number of actions, techniques, or series of steps to improve technical performance. There is no defined goals except to continue doing the techniques until they can be executed with proficiency in nage-komi and randori. Many Judoka simply practice Judo for exercise, to enjoy the sport, and for personal satisfaction.

The only marker of progress is some level of technical proficiency and the color of belt awarded and, as with most regular practice, an individual can expect to feel fitter and experience improvement.  However, practicing without clearly defined goals, the probability of reaching one’s full potential is diminished.    

In practical terms, practice is the once a week club event where one practices for an hour or two, generally covering warm-ups, uchi-komi, technical study, and randori. But without increased frequency and intensity progress comes slowly.

Training, on the other hand, generally speaks to a significant time commitment to a structured plan that includes a number of meaningful drills and exercises, with increasing duration and intensity, to achieve specific goals. In Judo this may include training to improve a specific technique or series of techniques; training to improve tactics and grip fighting; training to improve strength or stamina; or training to improve mental toughness. All of these are quantifiable and therefore have metrics for the coach and athlete to gauge improvement. The related targeted, incremental goals being promotion and winning in competition. 

Training means having planned, meaningful practice activities driven by personalized coaching and instruction, designed to improve specific performance objectives. For Judo the training programs should be designed to improve technical skills (waza), competition skills (tactics), and mental toughness. For optimum effectiveness, each training program and training module should become progressively more individualized as the individual athlete improves and advances.  Where initial group training will have drills that are “common to all,” truly effective coaching requires that the training be customized to suit the individual.  

To take this a step further, each athlete on a training squad, or even students in a dojo, has varying strengths and weaknesses, so it is the mission of the coach to identify the weaknesses in each individual and to optimize the training to patch those deficiencies. Over time those weaknesses become strengths and the training is adjusted to address other weaknesses.

Finally, as most competent coaches are aware, meaningful, deliberate training that is focused on developing physical strength and stamina, plus technical, tactical and mental skills, greatly improves the athletes’ probability of reaching their full potential.         

Train Hard – Train Smart – Train Often


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The State of American Judo

Well worth watching. Former Judo Olympian and former Olympic Judo Coach Steve Cohen chats about his perspective of American Judo

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Treat Your Training Partners with Respect

Mark V. Lonsdale, Head Coach

Respect is a foundational tenant of Judo and is particularly important in the dojo. One of the worst forms of disrespect in the dojo is when a senior grade or stronger player uses excessive force with a lower grade or weaker player in randori.

This behavior discourages new students resulting in an unnecessary drop-out rate. So coaches and sensei need to be ever watchful for bullying or overly aggressive judoka taking advantage of weaker partners during randori.

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Fear & Hesitation in Judo

By Mark V. Lonsdale

Fear causes hesitation – and he who hesitates is lost.
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Never Forget 9-11

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The Way of Judo

Try-Fail-Learn Mark Lonsdale

In Judo we respect perseverance, patience, and tenacity. A failure is just an opportunity to learn and a stepping stone to success 

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